It’s important to keep retelling the history of 9-11

Ground Zero Make-shift Memorial with flags, photos, and notes.
9-11 Make-shift Memorial in New York City at Ground Zero.

Note: This anecdote was written several years ago when I was teaching school in California.

I’d just pulled up to school in East Los Angeles when I heard the radio announcement about the attack on the World Trade Center. Within seconds, I realized my nephew who worked there might have lost his life. I went to sign in and ended up crying in the office. The assistant principal pulled me into her office and explained that her daughter was at the Pentagon and that it’d been hit as well. She appeared calm and professional as always. She told me to make a decision on whether to go home or stay and teach. I don’t have a family of my own, so I decided to stay and teach my first grade students.

There was a rumor around school that more planes were headed to Los Angeles. The planes that hit the World Trade Center were outbound flights for Los Angeles International Airport. Our large inner city school was located directly below the heavy incoming flight plans for LAX. In fact, when the government cleared the skies of all planes, walking across the schoolyard became surreal.  In times of natural disasters or emergencies, teachers become the wards for the students until their parents can pick them up. I went to teach class and defend my students and school from harm.

The rumor was so strong that our principal went missing and was later reported to have locked herself in a closet. School functioned without her. A few parents came to pick up their children. I remember starting the day off by showing a map of the United States to my class. I wanted them to understand how far away the attacks were to help them feel less anxious. They had many misconceptions of what was going on fueled by the fact that they were limited English speakers. For example, they thought the continuous instant replay on television that morning of the second plane going into the tower was actually many planes not just one. Being fluent in Spanish, I was able to translate the basic information on the attacks.

Students were allowed outside for recess, and I headed to the teacher break room to make a few calls to learn about my nephew’s whereabouts. Someone had pulled a TV into the break room, and teachers were watching the latest news about the attacks. I learned that my nephew was alive because he went to work late. He was just getting out of a cab when the first plane hit.  He fled Manhattan on foot along with the mass exodus. My nephew escaped physical harm, but he bears the burden of witnessing a heinous crime against humanity.

In the classroom, we discussed what was going on in New York. Unfortunately, some of my students had seen graphic images of people jumping to their deaths on the Spanish news channel that morning. It was very hard not to cry in front of them. I had to be strong, so they could feel safe. I didn’t tell the students about the rumors nor explain what an attack of this magnitude would mean to our country and the world. East Los Angeles is a tough neighborhood. Its teachers are prepared for earthquakes, lock downs, and multiple casualties. As a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I have more survival skills than the average person. However, I didn’t know how to prepare for war. Fortunately, no harm came to us.

The day after 9-11, the Los Angeles Times printed images of people jumping out of the twin towers of World Trade Center. The images on television news coverage kept me in tears for weeks, as more information was given on the attacks. It sent me into a depression for several months. The summer after 9-11, I visited my nephew in Manhattan and saw Ground Zero. The makeshift memorial wall was still up with faded images of the missing. Fresh notes were messages to those who were missed on their birthdays and anniversaries. I photographed the memorial to share with future students in the classroom.

Ground Zero Makeshift Memorial
In memory of those who lost their lives on 9-11.

I love Pixlr!

Photo of authro with stars, leaves, and vines over image.
I used Pixlr to edit and manipulate my photo.

 

What is it? Pixlr is a free editing software program that allows you to modify or enhance images. There are three levels: playful, efficient, and advanced. It’s similar to other photo editing services like Google’s Picasa, Adobe Photoshop, or Window’s Gimp.

How can I use it in my course? Use Pixlr to add interesting visual imagery, provide cues, or add a personal touch to your online course. For example, adding a photo of yourself to your syllabus or instructor bio provides teacher presence in online environments.

How do I get started?  Go to Pixlr.com. You do not need to create an account to use it. Begin at your level of expertise. Upload a photo from your desktop and start editing. It’s fairly intuitive.

Tech Tips:

  • Save image to desktop or jumpdrive if you’re not planning on logging in.
  • The Text feature only allows you to select the font. You will need to resize the text box in order to change the font size.
  • The Stickers feature is a great way to add whimsy to your image!
  • Open Pixlr editor (Advance) has almost the same amount of features as Photoshop.
  • You can make collages that look professional with the Collage tool.
  • The mobile app is available at the App Store but is a bit cumbersome.

I forgot to mention that it’s a lot of fun!

Sandra Rogers

P.S. I presented this as part of a series of technology teasers for the USA Learning Academy this summer at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. See my instructor training guide for the workshop utilizing Gagne’s 9 events of instruction.

SecondLife: Advantages and Disadvantages for Education

Profile picture of the author's avatar, Sand Guardian
My avatar, Sand Guardian

The following personal reflection on the educational advantages and disadvantages to SecondLife (SL) are based on a single-user’s online experience. In the era of massive multiplayer role-playing games where participants interact in-world in groups (study hall, computer lab, or arcade) as well as online, the following advantages could increase and the disadvantages could decrease.

Disadvantages to SL include the requirements for high-end technical hardware and a specific skill set that can only be learned within the virtual environment (VE). I advocate for the education of the masses in accordance with Paolo Freire. Because SL requires a certain bandwidth capability and computer graphic cards for participation, this creates a barrier for some students.

Secondly, the skill set to function in SL can only be found in this environment, so there is little opportunity to transfer previous knowledge. Perhaps there are games that have the same functions that would make this possible. SL requires learning by trail and error, which hinges on the motivation and personality of a learner. I’m an adventurer type (global learner), so I don’t mind trying and failing. However, from experience as an educator, not all student have the same will or ease. For instance, an analytical learner would need lots of demonstration videos and the rules prior to logging in. Therefore learning preferences should be considered in VEs.

On the other hand, the advantages for SL and other VEs are tremendous. Some of the benefits include accessibility for persons otherwise unable to participate fully in the real world, the affordances lend themselves to learning various content in authentic environments, and the opportunity to unite people. First, SL provides for the following accessibility requirements: text chat, language translations, audio, written descriptions of venues, and remote controlled avatars. I’m not sure all SL venues provide alternative text for venues and activities, but I did see a lot instructions provided at the locations I visited. For example, at a dance floor, a floating ball provided instructions to click the ball and a menu of dance moves appeared. I’d hope that the JAWS (Job Aid With Speech) screen reader would be able to read it for persons requiring that particular accommodation. I haven’t done any research on the accessibility of SL specifically. I learned from research on accessibility that text within images in MS Word cannot be read by JAWS like the speech bubbles, so I’m unsure if the directions can be read by adaptive technologies like JAWS.

Second, the affordance of trying new skills in a simulated environment, especially if that skill may be a dangerous one in real life, is a great advantage.  In a HealthWorkforce Australia document (Walsh, 2010), the use of VEs was proposed as instrumental for education in dentistry:

“A virtual world which is used at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry exposes students to exercises in diagnosing complicated problems, which in
turn eliminates the use of live patients in a risky environment. Such VW are especially useful during the first half of the curriculum when students are inexperienced in patient
care.” (p. 15)

Third, SL provides unique and varied opportunities for gatherings. For example, the Veterans Administration set up an office where veterans can visit and learn about their benefits in SL. Another example is how IBM uses SL to meet virtually with its administrators worldwide. IBM said this environment was much more appealing than teleconferences between boardrooms. I’m a positive thinker, so I believe the opportunities are endless as long as you have the necessary equipment, VE skill set, and motivation.  For more information, read my previous post on the use of SL for educational purposes.

Note; This is part two in a series on SL.

Use of SecondLife for Educational Purposes

Avatar sitting on a crescent moon
I’m over the moon for SecondLife!

SecondLife (SL) could be used in numerous ways to promote student learning. For example, a quick screencast of an avatar presenting the topic would be a great way to gain the learner’s attention. Perhaps the screencast could serve as an advance organizer with an abstract of the content to be presented related to the past unit content. Last semester, I used SL as a backdrop for creating a mini-introduction to a lesson for the USAonline Student Orientation course. This was a less expensive way to gain attention than the fee-based avatars like SitePal.

Secondly, SL is a great format for second language learning. The multi-modal environment allows for rich language experiences. For example, learners have the text-chat and voice option; they have destinations already set up for social interactions; and instructors can set up student-created projects in a designated sandbox. A unique project that the Electronic Village Online (EVO) workshop participants created in SL were machinimas. These are movies made in SL. They even had an awards show as a culminating event. SL is definitely where movie magic can happen to transform users into a fantasy world with outrageous outfits, superhuman abilities, and all sorts of real and unreal critters.

Lastly, I think the richness of the visual graphics and affordances of the movement allow for some great opportunities for storytelling. It dawned on me when I looked at the photos of me on the moon, that I could use these photos to create a children’s story in ebook format. I’ve taken courses on how to write children’s stories and have several completed ones. However, I don’t know how to illustrate them nor do I have the money to hire someone to do it. I plan to publish one on an app in Google Drive called BookieJar. I think I might try to set-up some photos in SL that go along with my story line. I just need to find out the legal issues of using photos taken in other people’s sims (simulated environments).

I am aware that there is a dark side to SL. As with any open source, multi-user platform, educators need to be vigilant of students in virtual environments. One teacher provided a safe virtual platform by using a sim-on-a-stick. This refers to an educational SL version that can be downloaded to computers without going to the public site.  The teacher built  (or added to an existing sim) a simulated trip to mars for his elementary students. The teacher filmed the in-world and real world experience for the girls. It’s awesome!  View his video to see how the students helped each other and used a how-to guide: external link: http://metatek.blogspot.com.au/2010/03/opensim-mars-simulation.html.

Note: This is the first in a series about SL.

AbeBooks Video: Long Live the Book

Create a Google Site from Gmail Account

Are you interested in selling educational products on TPT?

Cover page of story titled, A Chance To Grow
I sell children’s stories, activities, and other K-12 educational products online.

 

TeachersPayTeachers.com is a great way for educators to sell their own material.  They’re an open marketplace for educators to buy, sell, and share their self-made educational products.   Here’s my store on TPThttp://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Teacherrogers. I currently have 50 educational products for sale.  Examples include a podcast project, learning center signs, language prompts with photos from American life, and literature studies.  The majority of my products are available in English and Spanish editions.

You have to become a member to make a purchase.  Membership is free. Additionally, you will have access to thousands of free downloads from each teacher—that’s the sharing component of TPT.  If you’re interested in selling products on TPT, then please use my referral link.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Signup/referral:Teacherrogers

Read my WordPress page about being a materials writer for TeachersPayTeachers. I’m selling products on TPT to help pay for graduate school and to get hands-on experience as an instructional designer of educational products. This activity is also helping me learn about the Common Core State Standards, as I try to align my products.  For example, check out the fictional story I wrote about the life cycle of various animals and plants a young chick encounters on a walk around the farm.

Also, some teachers (not me) make a substantial income on TPT. Read about TPT’s number one seller, Deanna Jump. Thank you for visiting my store! If you purchase something, please leave feedback.